I just finished my last writing workshop. I feel a little sad, but kind of energized too.
At first, I felt apart from the group. And suspicious because they only gave me compliments. Supportive is nice and all, but it’s not very helpful when you’re trying to grow as a writer.
Then I read a piece that they didn’t like so much. They weren’t mean, just not as enthusiastic. I knew the writing wasn’t that good but I read it anyway. I wonder if I was unintentionally testing them.
That’s when things started to trust their comments and respected their opinions more. Probably because I became more familiar with their work too and that can be pretty personal.
Tonight, week six or seven and our last meeting, I realized that I really do like these people and will miss the group.
And the deadlines the group created. As I’ve said time and time again in this blog, I accomplish more when I have goals to meet. And having to read a piece each week, even if it was just a short piece, gave me that goal.
I’ve also learned a lot about editing in the workshop. I’ve received praise for how concise my scenes are and how clean the dialogue is.
They didn’t start out that way, partially because of the one thousand word goal I’ve charged myself with. And partly because I needed all the “he said” and “she exclaimed” to figure out what was going on.
But now I can see what’s flab and what’s good. I think I have a handle on how to edit my own work, at least judging by the reaction my edited pieces have received.
I was charged with two tasks by the workshop leader tonight and I think they are both good ideas.
1) Set a deadline for a completed first draft
This freaks me out, but knowing how I work it will be helpful to have such a date in mind.
Of course, it’s not as easy as picking a date and saying that’s my deadline.
It has to be a realistic date or else I won’t be able to achieve the goal. Then I’ll get pissed off and down on myself and stop writing all together.
I don’t want that to happen.
So let’s do the math.
If an average novel is 100,000 words (I got that number off the internet and have no idea if it’s right, but if there’s an average of 250 words per published page, that’s 400 pages. Wow. I can’t imagine the story I’m writing will be 400 pages, but I’m going to use that number because I’m sure I will edit it down. A lot.)
Ok, so 100,000 words is my goal. So far I’ve written 31,000 words of the story. I know some of those are crap, so I’m going to go with 25,000 words written.
That leaves me 75,000 words to go.
I think it’s reasonable for me to write 3,000 to 4,000 words a week. But, that’s only after I reach the end of this 1000 words a day project in 29 days.
(Have I really been doing this for eleven months? That seems hard to believe both because it feel like I just started and because it feels like I’ve been writing forever.)
So if I write 3,500 words a week, it will take me just under 22 weeks to complete another 75,000 words. If I start on May 25 that takes me to late October.
But I want to give myself just a little wiggle room, so my deadline is (and I’m putting it in writing and on the internet so it’s official) November 22, 2012.
That’s Thanksgiving, which seems fitting because I’m thankful for writing and if I get a first draft done, I can be thankful for that too.
2) Name it.
This task is twofold. First I have to stop calling it my Might Possibly Become a Novel (MPBAN). It is a novel. I’m writing a novel. I’m an amateur novelist.
Although I do well with deadlines, this label scares the bejesus out of me. It puts a strange kind of pressure on me.
I’m not saying that pressure is a bad thing. Maybe it will help, like the deadline I just set. But it’s something I’ve avoid because if I say I’m writing a novel and I don’t, I will have failed.
But if it’s just something I’m playing around with, there’s not expectation.
And now that I’ve started calling it a book, I have to come up with a working title.
I’ve kind of been calling it “Daniel” in my head, but I don’t really like that. It doesn’t encompass enough.
The workshop leader has this thing she says about essays and non-fiction. She’s says the piece will be about something and then there’s “what it’s about what it’s about.”
So you could be writing about watching the rain out the window, but you are really writing about loneliness. That’s what it’s about what it’s about.
So I’ve been thinking about my novel (I said it!) in those terms too.
The story seems to be about community, to me. People searching for community, trying to find the right community, not having a community.
Community could fit as a working title, but it’s too obvious. Plus there’s a TV show with that name.
I know, I know. It’s not the real title, it’s a just for now title. But it’s an important step in the process and a big leap forward in my commitment to the project, so I want it to be just right.
What else are the characters searching for? Kinship, acceptance, identity.
I like identity. But is that too big a concept for a title? And I’d need something to go with it.
I’m not very good at titling and it’s apparent I won’t find the right title tonight, but I’ll keep working on it.
For now it’s enough that I’m calling it a novel.